Relationships are primary. I teach this, I preach this, and it is a core value within our organization. And yet, I still benefit from daily reminders that it is the power of human connection that fuels organizational success. It is not the policies, procedures or systems — although these provide a necessary structure within which relationships are guided. It is not the latest technology — although technology can make it easier to stay connected. It’s not even the strategic direction — although such guidance can maximize the impact of relationships.
For all the value these tools can bring, systems, technology and strategy can also serve as a distraction from an organization’s real competitive advantage — the people, inside and outside the organization, who are committed to making amazing things happen. “Engagement” is the current buzzword in the popular press, and experts have all kinds of suggestions for large-scale initiatives to build this sense of connection within and for your organization. But here’s the thing… relationships don’t happen on a large scale. They happen one-on-one, and are built over time. Sure, some develop more quickly — sometimes you just “click” with someone — however they still take regular tending, refueling, to deepen and have maximum impact.
So how, in the midst of your overflowing to-do list, do you find the time for another on-going task? Well first, I would suggest that it is an opportunity not a task, and the short answer is that it is about prioritization. The second answer is, in the time you spend explaining why you don’t have time to build relationships, you could be doing it. This week, I received hand-written notes from two individuals after a meeting I had with them the previous week. How long do you think it took them to write and mail those notes? What kind of impact you do you think it had on strengthening our relationship?
There are several individuals from whom I periodically receive an email simply to touch base — they aren’t pitching an idea or asking for anything. Maybe they ran across an article they thought might be of interest to me, or simply wanted to say they hoped all was well with me. Again, these touchpoints only take a few moments, yet reap great rewards from a relationship standpoint. How many times have you thought, “I should call/drop a note/send an email to Sue and let her know I was thinking about her/what a great job she did/she would be the perfect person for this project.” How often do you actually follow through and make the call/send the note or email? How about today? What small thing can you do before the end of the day to foster a relationship with someone inside, or outside, your organization?
Relationships are what move organizations forward. What are you doing to fuel yours for success?